Lake County District Attorney Don Anderson determined Monday that two CHP officers were acting in self defense when they returned gunshots fired from a fleeing vehicle last year.
No one was struck by the bullets but a man in the fleeing vehicle, Jeremy John, was mortally injured when he leaped from the Chevy Tahoe.
“It is the finding of this office that the California Highway Patrol officers were justified in discharging their firearms,” Anderson said in a prepared statement.
The driver of the vehicle, William Edward Steele, 40, is facing multiple felony charges that include murder, attempted murder of an officer and assault with a deadly weapon on officers.
The vehicle chase began at 2:30 a.m. Oct. 19 when Officers Shane Roach and Glen Thomas attempted to stop the white Chevy Tahoe on Highway 29 in the Kelseyville area. The officers wanted to check whether the driver was sober, Anderson said.
The Tahoe pulled over and stopped, but then made an abrupt left turn. The officers could see Steele through the open driver's window, then saw a muzzle flash and heard the sounds of gunshots, Anderson said.
When the officers caught up with his SUV, Steele again stopped the vehicle, then made a U-turn and fled while shooting at the officers, Anderson said.
The officers both returned fire, striking the vehicle. They fired about 21 rounds, he said.
Investigators later determined that Steele had stopped to let out one of his passengers, Davina Del Gadillo, Anderson said. John also attempted to get out of the vehicle but fell, striking his head on the pavement, he said.
A third passenger, Cody Potter, was let off at a trailer park, he said.
Steele eventually abandoned the vehicle less than a mile from the shooting scene, Anderson said. He was apprehended later that morning following a massive manhunt.
You can reach Staff Writer Glenda Anderson at 462-6473 or firstname.lastname@example.org